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“The Landscape of a Family Owned Business” – Interview with Growing Seasons Professional Landscaping

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Success Stories

INTERVIEW with Growing Seasons Owner Justin O’Conner

With over a decade of experience, Justin O’Connor knows the landscaping business inside and out. After graduating from Penn State University with a Bachelor’s degree in Landscape Contracting (with options in both Landscape Design/Build and Landscape Management), he gained the foundation needed to become President of Growing Seasons, a family-owned and operated company located 15 miles South of Pittsburg.

Here, he shares his insight, discusses the steps taken along the way to achieve his company’s current success and tells us how real-time technology has helped his landscaping company thrive.

Q: Can you tell us about your family history and the generational transition involving the management of your business?

A: Growing Seasons Landscaping is family owned and operated and we’re located 15 miles south of Pittsburgh. We took ownership in 2007 after the previous owner decided to sell the company. Before we took over, the company was geared more towards turf and landscape maintenance at the time. We decided that we also wanted to pursue landscape construction and focus more on business-to business projects, as well as snow and ice management. With the growth of the gas and oil industry in our area, we also expanded our services to include erosion control, which has also helped our company grow over the past several years.

In addition to our unparalleled Landscape Division, Growing Seasons also offers a 24/7 comprehensive Snow & Ice Management service and a USDA certified Firewood Division for residential and restaurant use.

Q: Family-owned businesses can be as unique and distinctive as the families that own them. How does being family-owned and operated work to your advantage, and how does it help set you apart from your competition?

A: [Jim O’Connor]: Being faced with the task of managing the business along with two of my sons, we decided to hire a business coach. What this has done for us is to keep each of us in “our lanes”. What I mean by lanes is Justin is in charge of sales and estimating, Josh is in charge of operations and equipment and I am in charge of finance. We discuss our areas and do help each other when needed, but hiring a coach keeps us focused and accountable. My middle son Ryan doesn’t work in the business, but he is our insurance advisor.

My wife Sue does not work in the business, but she is a huge asset in keeping us all grounded. There is nothing more rewarding than seeing your sons grow, mature, and be hard working honest business people, helping each other achieve their goals and solve their problems. Please don’t think we have it all together, we go through a lot of problems as well. But knowing we are all focused on the same goal is a huge asset to us. We invest in education, seminars and visiting other companies when we can. Education is a big part of our growth and success.

Q: How has technology helped contribute to your company’s success?

A: Our company uses and relies on LMN. We had looked at several software programs and knew we needed to streamline our company’s process to a single platform. After meeting Mark Bradley, Founder of LMN, in a food line at the Green Industry and Equipment Expo in 2013, we got started with LMN shortly afterwards, in early 2014. We wanted to implement it right away and there wasn’t any training class near us at the time, so we used all the online resources and short videos. It made the process simple and straight forward.

We were able to build our budget for the year and setup all of our estimating catalogs. The videos on also gave us a better understanding of our companies’ numbers and how to recover all of our costs. Once we had everything setup, we immediately saw results in the speed and accuracy of our estimates. Our customers compliment us on how professional and easy to read they are. When you know your numbers it gives you the ability to bid with confidence.

In the past year, we have transitioned a lot of our work to commercial construction and erosion control. With this growth, LMN has been a big part in our estimating and job costing on projects. We had a very big year for growth, without adding any additional management or estimators.

Q: Can you give us a specific example of how LMN’s software and training have boosted your company’s success?

A: This past summer, we had an opportunity to bid a commercial construction project with a fast turnaround time. By understanding our numbers and our overhead through LMN, we were able to adjust our numbers not by cutting our price, but by understanding how this particular job offset our overhead costs.

Because of that, we were able to lower our bid amount and win the project. If we didn’t end up making these changes, we would have lost the bid and the opportunity to work with this client. This was all because of LMN’s resources and its education, which gave us the insight and understanding we needed to achieve our goals.

Q: With the upcoming snow season right around the corner, how will your company thrive during this busy time of year?

A: We attended a landscape business management workshop this past July taught by LMN and held at our local Caterpillar dealer. The workshop was geared towards snow and we are now converting all of our snow operations to LMN. LMN is not only going to help our fi eld staff, but also the office staff – by boosting their efficiency and eliminating paper route sheets. The GPS time stamp also gives us the ability to confirm when our trucks leave our on-site.

In combination with LMN, Jobsite Watch, is giving us another competitive advantage. We plan on using this app for a client that we service over 50 of their sites. Jobsite Watch is going to allow our client to see in real-time which sites have been serviced and at what time. This application is allowing us to offer something that our competition is not. Our commitment is providing the best service in everything we do. We strive to build a long lasting relationship with every single client, while exceeding their expectations every step of the way.

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